The New Democrats are forcing a debate in the House over whether to hold cross-Canada consultations on the government's proposed changes to federal election laws.

The party is using its opposition day, a day set aside for it to set the subject of debate in the House, to present a motion that would instruct the procedure and House affairs committee to travel the country and seek input from Canadians.

NDP Deputy Leader David Christopherson called the Conservatives a "serial-cheating government" that's trying to "pre-cheat" the next election through the proposed changes.

New Democrat MP Craig Scott called the bill the "unfair elections act," playing off the government's title for the bill, the fair elections act.

The Conservatives have more than enough MPs to vote down the NDP's motion, but it will force the Conservatives to defend the decision and to vote publicly on it.

Ending vouching, increasing spending

Scott also called on the Conservative backbench MPs who have spoken out against Prime Minister's Office control to vote with the opposition on the NDP motion.

"Yeah, they have a majority, but they also have, what is it — who's counting — but 15-20 backbenchers who like every now and again to tell the media that they're very concerned about democratic process and the state of their democracy," Scott said.

Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre presented bill C-23, changes to the Canada Elections Act, earlier this month. The controversial changes would:

  • Limit the chief electoral officer's ability to speak publicly.
  • Increase the campaign spending limits and exempt fundraising services from the cap.
  • Eliminate vouching, a process that allows people without the required identification to cast ballots.

Critics say vouching in particular would disenfranchise people who don't tend to vote Conservative.

Motion calls for First Nation, anti-poverty witnesses

The motion calls for the committee to hear witnesses from groups including:

  • Elections Canada.
  • Political parties as defined under the Canada Elections Act.
  • Representatives of First Nations.
  • Representatives of anti-poverty groups.
  • Representatives of groups for persons with disabilities.
  • Youth advocates and students representatives.
  • Specific groups which have been active in society on elections rules.

It also says the committee could hear from Poilievre again. He appeared before the committee last week.

The motion also gives the committee the power to travel to every region in Canada, specifying both downtown urban settings and rural and remote regions.

Travel would happen in March and April 2014, with the committee reviewing the bill clause by clause only after the hearings were done, but by May 1, 2014.

The NDP earlier this month denied all committee travel in protest of the Conservatives' plan to bar the procedure and House affairs committee from going across Canada.